Thursday, January 29, 2009

Defensive Progression for Teaching M-M

I am a big believer in teaching man to man defense to your players. Zone can win you some games and get you some great looks, but I believe most successful teams have a good man to man backbone to rely on. I love teaching the game and I think this progression I do daily in practice goes a long way to help. I do the drills in the following order:

Mass Stance (5 Minutes)
-Have players get in lines and get into their stance. Go around and make sure they are in proper stance (butt down, back straight, hands out, knees not pointed in, etc). Then I have them go to chopping their feet while staying in their stance. Then I point and have them slide the way I point. When I bring the ball up and pretend to shoot, they have to close out. Very simple drill and very elementary, but I want to make sure that my players are as technically sound as possible.
-Points of Emphasis: Proper stance, active hands, call ball, call shot on the close out, point your toe the way you want to go, hand up in the direction the player is going and the opposite hand in the middle to take the crossover, and STAY LOW!

Full Court 1 on 1 (5 Minutes)
-Players line up at one end of the court. The first two players play one on one down the floor. They finish and sprint back around the outside of the floor back into the line. If the offensive player scores, the defense has 5 pushups, if the defense stops them the offense has 5 pushups. De La Salle HS in Minneapolis does this and they are a very good defensive program. I like it because you will NEVER have to play a kid 1 on 1 FC so if you can do it this makes you a much better defender.
-Points of Emphasis: Stay low in stance, point toe the way you are shuffling, back straight, call ball, active hands, turn them as much as possible before half court (to slow them down) then once they are over half court get them to a side and keep them there (hopefully weak hand side).

Close Outs (5 Minutes)
-One player starts at the top of the key, the other players start in a line under the basket, first player has the ball. The player with the ball throws out a good chest pass to the player at the top of the key. They sprint out and close out on the ball. The player with the ball has three dribbles to score - again make it competitive with pushups. I like the way De La Salle teaches closeouts in terms of going from 2 hands up to 1 after the initial close out. A good way to teach it. I will change the drill and have me as the passer and the defender start in different spots and close out. For instance, me on the wing, the player they are guarding on the point, and them on the line up the line ready to close from there. Again, simple drill but it teaches kids how to be technical with what they are doing.
-Points of Emphasis: SPRINT OUT to close the gap, high hands and low butt, call "ball", start closing out 5 feet from the ball with short choppy steps like a linemen, be ready to react to the shot or drive by the offense.

Wing Denials (5 Minutes)
-I really like this drill in terms of teaching good footwork and positioning. Put a chair on each wing. Have the coach at the point with the ball. The players start in a line in proper position as if they were guarding the chair. On your signal, they slide at an angle to the block, as if guarding a cutting wing, they pivot on their bottom foot, shuffle across the lane opened up, pivot on their front foot and close again on the opposite block and shuffle out to the other chair so they would be in proper position in relation to the ball at the point. Make sure they see the ball at all times, if they don't I will gently lob it at them to catch them unaware.
-Points of Emphasis - See ball and "man", stay low and in good stance, proper slides, proper verbals (help, help, help), active hands, point toe the way you are going, pivot properly.

2v2 1 Side (5 Minutes)
-Divide the court in half length wise. One offensive and defensive player at the point area, one at the wing. Point has the ball. Play two on two. Offense can move and cut, but can only drive middle (because of help). Play 2 on 2 and work on positioning. Kind of a chance to put all the invidual stuff together.
-Points of emphasis: Proper verbals (help when off ball, ball when on ball, cutter if cutting, drive if driving, etc), proper positioning (on line up line for me when off, pressure ball when on), staying in stance at all times, helping early and often, recovering hard, proper close outs

Shell Drill (10 Minutes)
-Very basic drill, but one that I LOVE. Have the offense start in a 4 out 1 in look (can really have any look actually). Have the defense match up. Offense stays stationary and passes the ball around. I like to have the offense hold the ball for 3 seconds before passing to start and then speed it up at the end. I will do this for the first five to seven minutes switching guys in and out on defense. Then I will usually get something I want to focus on and have the offense do that - for example: pass and cut, drive and kick, screen, etc. And really focus my guys and defending that specific look.
-Points of Emphasis: VERBALS (must talk), proper positioning in relation to the ball, move on AIR TIME (when the pass is caught everyone should be in position), proper defensive position at all times.

1 Down Transition (10 minutes)
-I like this drill because it works on transition defense, which is one of the most under taught aspects of the game, and lets us put everything we have worked on into live practice for ten minutes. You put the players into two teams (I go yellow and black b/c of colors). One team of five starts spread out on the baseline facing the opposite basket and is the offensive team in the drill. The other team is spread out at the FT line extended facing someone on the baseline. The coach starts with the ball behind the players on the FT line extended. The coach throws the ball to one of the offensive players on the baseline and the offensive team takes off toward the opposite basket. The defense takes off too, except the player who was lined up across from the player the ball was passed to. That defender has to run down, touch the baseline, and then get back into the play. The other 4 defenders have to stop the 5 on 4 break long enough for their teammate to recover.
-Points of Emphasis: Order of operations in transition defense: rim-ball-man, protect the rim-stop the ball-THEN find your guy, close out on shooters, communciate for matchups, get into our man to man, play proper man to man defense.

So, there it is. Nothing special at all, but it is something that I like and believe in. Hopefully it helps some of you out. Thoughts? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sometimes The Name on the Jersey Scares Players More Than the Players in the Jersey

On Friday my freshmen played City Conference power St. Paul Johnson at home. Johnson is a well coached and pretty talented team. I knew we would struggle. I told my guys this may be our toughest game all year but we could beat them, and my guys believed me, maybe a little too much. We came out of the gate firing on all guns and got out to a 13-4 lead early on. Then, during a timeout, one of my guys looked around the huddle and said "I can't believe we are actually beating Johnson", and everyone else looked at him with the same look of disbelief. Right then it sank into the kids just WHO we were playing. After that, my guys started to play scared. They didn't realize that they were out playing these kids and were actually as good as them, they instead focused on the fronts of the jerseys instead of the players in those jerseys. So next time we play them, I'm going to make sure to be much more low key about the whole thing and just quietly assure them we can do the job. I am not sure how to get rid of the sticker shock yet, but I will think of something. Maybe have our guys go against the sophomore team wearing Johnson jerseys?! I don't know! But the nice thing is we get a rematch against them in a few weeks, we will see where we go from there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Funny Story....At Least Now

Saturday the freshmen team I coach played White Bear Lake. I LOVE my freshmen to death, they are great kids, work hard, but are not supremely talented this year. We spend a TON of practice time learning the game and working on fundamentals, and it is starting to pay off. We had some tough games in the beginning, but have been closing the gap as the season has went on, which is a big positive.

So in this game against White Bear Lake (WBL from now on), we were playing our tails off. Getting on the floor for balls, playing together, working hard on defense, everything we've talked about doing. WBL was a pretty solid team, but we were hanging with them and actually had the game tied right at the end. So they scored with a minute left to go up 2 points, and we brought the ball down. I could tell we were not sure what to run - I had just checked with the book and was told I had 1 timeout remaining - so I decided this would be as good a time as any to take it. When I asked the official for a timeout, he turned to me and said "Coach, you don't have any timeouts left". I looked at him like he was crazy and informed him I had a timeout and I wanted to use it! He again said I didn't have a timeout and wasn't going to give it to me. I started jumping up and down DEMANDING I have my timeout and he refused to blow his whistle. As this is happening my guys proceed to lose the ball, the other team goes down, scores and gets fouled.

At this point I am border line nuts about the no timeout call. The official goes to the scorers table and asks (as the other team is shooting the FT), they inform him that I do in fact have that timeout I wanted. The official looks at me and gives me some baloney excuse about how it was the books fault. I contended he should have blown the whistle when the timeout was requested and if was not one left, should have given the T for calling to many. He gave me more baloney...but I wasn't making any sandwiches with it.

Great story to underline the idea that we are all human and we all make mistakes. Things happen that are just crazy sometimes and you have to be able to smile about them, even if not getting the timeout may have cost us the win in this situation. It was a good learning experience for my guys in terms of not always having the cards fall on the table as you may want them to. Sometimes in life you get stiffed. And further more, if we hadn't given up 10+ points in second chance baskets to WBL, we wouldn't be in this situation anyway. Great way to highlight the fact that every single play in a game is important.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Great Time to Make a Defensive Change

I was watching the Timberwolves Shootout in the Target Center yesterday, and something that happened in the game between Henry Sibley HS and Madison Memorial HS I thought was worth writing about.

Later into the second half, the game had been bouncing between a tie and a one basket Memorial lead. But after a Sibley made basket to tie it up, Coach Dasovich from Sibley called a time out. I assumed he was changing defenses and he came out in a 2-3 zone. It was a great move at the time because up until that point they had played straight man to man. The 2-3 totally threw Memorial off their game for a few posessions and allowed Henry Sibley to take the lead.

I am a fan of changing defenses from time to time (but having a great base in something), and thought it was a great move to use the defensive change to break that stalemate of being 2 down, tied, and 2 down again. I think when you change defenses like that there are some things to consider however:

1. What are the strengths of the team we are changing defenses against? If they are great passers, it wouldn't be wise to run a zone trap. If they are having an amazing night shooting, running a pack it in 2-3 zone isn't the greatest idea (unless you have the athletes and/or length to close out). Change to a defense that your opponent may struggle with a little and plays away from their strengths. Madison Memorial wasn't shooting all that well and was scoring a lot of points on the inside. So with Sibley's length and size, going 2-3 made it hard to get the ball inside on the drive or the pass.

2. Has your oppojnent seen you run this defense a lot? If you run a lot of man to man and 2-3 zone, changing to your 2-3 is an fine thing to do, but may not be as effective if your opponent knows you and has spent time preparing for the 2-3. I think Madison was shocked that Sibley actually went 2-3 for that period of time and it really took them out of their game.

3. Does this opponent play against this defense normally? If you are playing a team with 2 6-10 centers and poor shooters, they likely see a ton of 2-3 and have ways built into their offense to work through it (on the other hand maybe they are horrible at it, but in that case you play 2-3 lots of the game then...). They may not be as phased by a 2-3 as they would some other defense like a 1-2-2 trap. Also, if the team itself plays a lot of this defense it is going to be harder to run it because they likely practice it in their practice using their zone offense, so they get extra reps against the defense you are running on a daily basis. Madison's confusion may have come more from the fact that they were not expecting Sibley to go 2-3 in this situation.

So overall, I think switching defenses for a short while from time to time is a great thing. It's like a pitcher that has a great fastball, but also has a nasty changeup that can make people look silly if they are not ready. You can be great at one defense, but sometimes you need to throw some change ups to people in order to be successful.